Philosophy & Philosophies


The writings of the Greek philosophers to provide essential background material for understanding the early church fathers. The latter expended a great deal of effort refuting what they considered to be the heretical teachings of the philosophers. Without even a cursory understanding of what they we attempting to refute much of what they wrote makes little sense.

From first half of the first millennium BC Greek thought became less satisfied with the mythological explanations for the origins of the universe. Observation and the beginnings of a scientific method led to theories about the origin of life very different to those of the Hebrews. The Greeks had no concept of creation by an Almighty God. This was not because the they rejected such an idea, it simply seems not to have occurred to them.[1] It was not until Christianity spread into the Hellenistic world in the second century AD that the two radically different world views began to interact and influence one another.[2]

It is important to state at the outset that there is a real problem in establishing what the early Greek philosophers taught on any subject, let alone that of cosmology. Those philsophers who lived before Socrates (c. 470-399 BC) are tradionally known as the Presocratics. Their works survive only is scattered fragments as quotations in the works of post-Socratic philosophers and commentators. These fragments represent what the post-Socratic philosophers thought the Presocratics taught, and we read the Presoctatics today in the language and thought of the Postsocratics writers. This is especially true of our major source of Presocratic quotations - Aristotle. Lack of primary evidence is, of course, sauce for the goose of academic debate, but it is generally unwise to be too dogmatic about the details what these men taught.[3]

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{1] Gordon H. Clark, Thales To Dewey. (Jefferson: The Trinity Foundation, 1985), 15.

[2] A. Hilary. Armstrong, An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy. (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1947), 164.

[3] H.F. Cherniss, "The Characteristics and Effects of Presocratic Philosophy," David J. Furley & R.E. Allen, eds., Studies in Presocratic Philosophy, Vol. 1. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970), 1-2.

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

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Book or monograph A. Hilary Armstrong, Augustine and Christian Philosophy. Villanova: Villanova University Press, 1967.
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On-line Resource Alan P.E. Sell, "Theology and the Philosophical Climate: Case-Studies From the Second Century AD (Part 1)," Vox Evangelica 13 (1983): 41-66.View in PDF format pdf
On-line Resource Alan. P.F. Sell, "Theology and the Philosophical Climate: Case-Studies From the Second Century AD (Part 2),Vox Evangelica 14 (1984): 53-64.View in PDF format pdf
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Book or monograph E. Zeller, A History of Eclecticism in Greek Philosophy. London, 1883.

Related Subjects



Aristotle | Cynicism | Epicurianism | Plato | Stoicism

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